Something just didn’t feel right.
After blocks and blocks of buildings in Manhattan, there was nothing. No trees, no park, no towering skyscrapers. What we saw Monday afternoon was just a pit; it was Ground Zero.
I think I can speak for most of the team that seeing the site of this terrible tragedy was harder and more emotionally challenging than expected. It’s impossible to imagine how New Yorkers dealt with it and started to recover right after the attacks. As it turns out, some of the best places for this to happen were churches.
Before we really experienced Ground Zero, we stopped in the one of first and longest-lasting places of recovery from nearly ten years ago. St. Paul’s Chapel, an Episcopalian church a block away from the site, is now a church and museum with objects and memories from the recovery process. The church was on the front lines, and used their space as a place for firefighters, policemen, and volunteers to rest and recover from what they had seen. It was also a destination for a lot of signs of support from around the country. The church was still full of letters, patches, and banners sent in. The community truly came together through this church, and did it in a loving, peaceful, and Christian manner.
Even without a crisis to deal with, churches —especially in urban areas— can be amazing places for a neighborhood to come together. These churches have space, a premium in cities. Churches quickly become centers for everything from daycare and dance lessons to ESoL classes and Bible studies. Our visit to Graffiti Church in east Manhattan proved that, as it was a center for outreach, service, and evangelism in the East Village. They’ve have steadfastly preached the Gospel for decades, while being a safe community center for a neighborhood where it was really necessary. Every inch of their space in almost always in use for something. It is a remarkable example of how outreach and ministry go hand in hand, and how a combination of both be a cornerstone for both a church and community. With them, neighborhoods can start to feel right again, even after the worst of times.